Texas 16th District
El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, face each other across the narrow Rio Grande, their tree-shaded streets spread out below the rough brown face of Comanche Peak. Downtown El Paso is only a few blocks from the bridge to Juarez. The two border cities are surrounded by hundreds of miles of some of North America’s most rugged and desolate landscape. El Paso is closer to San Diego than to Houston, it’s 600 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth, and it’s in a different time zone from the rest of the state. Still, the region has grown significantly. In the 1950s, El Paso and Juarez each had a population of 140,000. In 2006, there were 736,000 people in El Paso County, about 80% of them Hispanic, and the Mexican census counted 1.2 million in metro Juarez. This is a bilingual, bicultural pair of cities, where most people have a Mexican heritage. El Paso is one of the lowest-wage and lowest-education locales in the United States, and the third-poorest county in the nation. Juarez, though struggling with drug cartel violence and crime that has caused some residents to flee, is one of the highest-wage cities in Mexico. Big companies have moved back-office jobs to El Paso. Cotton is the predominant local crop, and the city is known as a boot-making center. Maquiladora factories created a cross-border economy, bolstered by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The economy is not all based on low-skill labor, though much of it is. South of the border, there is a large General Motors technical center. Many factories on both sides of the border were shuttered during the recession that began in December 2007 and Juarez had lost 42,000 jobs by early 2009.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 16th Congressional District of Texas is made up of 96% of El Paso County—the city itself, the suburban fringe, giant Fort Bliss to the north and rural housing settlements known as colonias, most without electricity and running water, spread out to the east and south. Fort Bliss was a big winner in the 2005 base closing review, with a $5 billion expansion and a net gain of nearly 30,000 soldiers. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, though native son George W. Bush got 44% of the vote against Democrat John Kerry in the district in 2004. Republican presidential nominee John McCain got just 33% in 2008, with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s winning easily with 66%.